Alcestis: Review Rundown


la_weekly_logo_265x70“Keystone’s staging is a kind of marvel — workshop-simple and yet elegant. The adaptation she’s concocted is explicitly about the lives we lead today, but without any winking glibness. It arouses more smiles than laughs, because the company’s investigation of what it means to be alive, and the shadows that impede that life, are so thoughtful and tender.”

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CultureSpotLA“CMPG reminds us that ritual both directs and burdens our lives, as in a scene that starts out as a carefully studied mimicry of the obligatory ceremony that surrounds today’s services. Soon, however, words and gestures are  so often that they become blows that repeatedly knock the grieving Admetus to the floor.”

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Image“Still, much of it is really gorgeous (Adam Frank’s lighting design is not done justice in the production photos by the usually excellent Ed Krieger) and pleasingly thought-provoking.  So typical of Boston Court’s good taste, Ms. Keystone’s show is genuinely theatrical in the sense that nothing like it can be experienced without leaving one’s house to see it. Which one should do, especially since the fires of hell that fanned our first heat wave of the summer have now faded to a tolerable roast.”

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Image“At its center is Keystone’s modern-dress riff on the myth of Queen Alcestis (Kalean Ung), whose uxorial virtues extend to substituting her own life for that of her husband, Admetus (Jeremy Shranko), in a deal brokered by Apollo (Lorne Green) to circumvent the king’s untimely demise. Like Euripides, Keystone’s version examines the manifold repercussions of Admetus’ self-centeredness (hint: not good), albeit with side trips into metaphysical philosophy, scathing satire and allegorical vaudeville. Throughout it all, a precision ensemble expertly navigates the drama — Ung and Shranko’s breakfast-nook coda is a tour de force of nonverbal eloquence — along with Keystone’s dance movements, which include cool quotations of Lucinda Childs and Pina Bausch.”

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Image“Keystone’s deconstruction of the Euripides play adds social commentary and mixes modern cultural references and pointed questions about love, family, death and dying with the complicated genealogy of this tale. Apollo, Alcestis and Herakles come from distinctly dysfunctional families, but the program notes and script’s exposition will bring you up to speed. All in all, the production is amusingly thought-provoking.”

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latimes1“The austere — almost too austere — staging benefits from designer Adam Frank’s lighting, Sarah Brown’s costumes and Randall Tico’s compositions and sound. Standout sequences include Alcestis’ yielding to Death (Russell Edge), Admetus’ clash with his mother (Valerie Spencer) and the heavy-metal outburst by Herakles (Nick Santoro), with the round-robin funeral segment and climactic coup involving the Fates easily worth admission.”

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gnp-newer-gnp-header-imageDeeply researched, based on multiple translations of the Euripides classic about a wife who saves her husband’s life by offering to die in his place, and on other related works by contemporary writers, this substantive, arrestingly physical new piece opens with a stark question projected onto a plain backdrop: “How do you live with the fact of your death every moment of every day?”

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2010-08-25 THR Sketch“Indeed, the opening half of the show often manages to capture in fresh cadences and accessible references essences suggested by the original in concrete and relatable terms, perhaps best conveyed when the troupe intones a pair of verbal fugues on the quotidian significances of life and on the contemplation of possible demises, litanies of mortality that forthrightly chill the spine with their accretion of recognizable detail.”

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LIFE_IN_LA_Logo“And dance they do. Critical Mass Performance Group uses many physical theatre techniques, including dance, in their performance pieces, resulting in a highly-stylized collage that explores the Euripides text and the source myth from all angles. This is ensemble theatre at its most glorious, visceral and immediate, exploding the text on to the stage.Alcestis is blessed with a talented, emotionally-available company who is able to navigate seamlessly through play. Speaking of dance, there is a waltz in the Underworld that is particularly eerie to watch.”

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Picture 9“‘Alcestis’ is funny, wrenching, inventive and deeply felt. It runs for about an hour and a half without an intermission, but leaves you startled at the end by the passage of time. In its juxtaposition of the extraordinary with the mundane, it offers more then just a comment on the struggle between fate and the powerful, but rather a chance to reexamine the intimate relationships of one’s own life. Food for thought, indeed. But then, much fodder for discussion is the natural outcome of a sojourn at Boston Court.

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lastagetimeslogo“Much of this story is told without words — or, in the case of a brilliant depiction of the fates hard at work, with only one word. Some of the action is danced more than acted. Randall Tico’s music and sound design is haunting. Adam Flemming’s projections add visual texture.”

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Picture 10“Heady stuff? Not to fear, it plays with whipsaw glee on this Pasadena stage. There are dances—both fancy production numbers and bone-cracking Martha Graham–esque contortions—as well as wacky choral interludes and absurdist pantomimes right out of Ionesco. Characters even periodically step out of character to comment on the Euripidean original. For all that, there’s not a whiff of camp to be found. The performances are emotionally pointed and rich, as legendary figures’ old sorrows and new resentments make themselves felt across the centuries and across these footlights.”

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bitterlemonsClick here to see the current “Lemon Rating” for Alcestis.

Click here for tickets to Alcestis.


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